A Re-Examined Life

Canberra girl’s mission to live a more natural, sustainable life.


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It’s time to meet your meat packaging

 

My new job could be the death of my blog! Longer working hours = much less time to write 😦

But I finally found some time and so here we are 🙂

So my last blog was all about some of the conditions our mass-produced meat live in, and if you are anything like me, those conditions will have left you feeling pretty upset, and you will have made a commitment to only buy meat that comes from animals that have led happy lives.

So I’m here today to talk about the labelling of meat, as when I first decided to make this change I ensured that any meat I bought was labelled “free-range” or “organic”, but since doing a bit more research on the labelling standards of meat, it turns out it’s not that simple, especially when it comes to the “free-range” label.

If you have been reading your meat labels you will have noticed that there are plenty of different labels around, depending on which meat produce you are buying you can find:

Grass-fed

Pasture-fed

Free-range

Bred free-range

Sow stall-free

Cage-free

Certified Organic

Biodynamic

And then, adding to the confusion, these different categories might be certified and there are a number of different certification groups, each of which has different standards.

The certifying organisations in Australia that I have come across are:

Australian pork free range

Free Range Egg & Poultry Association (FREPA)

RESPCA Approved Farming Scheme

Humane Choice

AUS-QUAL limited Organic

Australian Certified Organic

Bio-Dynamic Research Institute (BDRI)

National Association for Sustainable Agriculture Australia (NASAA)

Organic Food Chain (OFC)

Tasmanian Organic – dynamic Producers.

It’s worth noting that here in Australia most sheep and cattle are “free-range”, in that they aren’t confined and so there isn’t so much focus on free-range labelling for these guys. The focus is more on the grass-fed labelling (and you definitely want to be eating grass-fed animals as grain fed animals often get very sick and don’t have much fun).

So….. in terms of the labelling, here is what I have been able to find out.

First up are the ones you might want to stay away from because, well, it’s unlikely the animals have led happy lives.

Bred free-range, bred free, or outdoor bred, are labels for pork, and a bit misleading really, because although the terms free-range, free, and outdoors are in the label, what they actually mean is the animal is born free-range but after weaning it raised indoors with no outside access.

Sow stall-free means that the pigs don’t’ live in stalls, but they are still raised inside, in what is known as “indoor group housing”.   Better than the stalls, but still pretty sad as far as I am concerned.

The next labels mean the animal has probably led a happier life than their poor friends above, but as with all food labelling, there is no legislation (or it seems, desire born out of wanting to do the right thing) to govern how people label their products. So you should totally buy direct from a farmer you know and trust, and if you can’t do that, that is where label certification comes in .

Grass-fed or pasture-fed means the animals have been raised on open grazing land with access to water and they can have supplemental feed which is a mix of grasses.   All certified organic meat is grass-fed.

Certified organic – animals must be happily roaming around on pastures and cannot be given growth-promoters or antibiotics. The general principles of organic farming mean the animals must be treated nicely.

Biodynamic Bellamy’s organic blog has a great article that spells out the difference between organic and biodynamic farming, but from what I can understand, biodynamic farming has similar principles to organic but takes it a step further by considering things such as lunar and astrological cycles, and places a lot of emphasis on the health of the soil (yay!).

Free-range – depending on which of the certification standards, and the type of animal produce you are buying, this label can mean a lot of different things. I took some time out to read through the various certification standards, but so you don’t have to, I’ve put together a couple of tables to summarise, so you don’t have to 🙂

Free range accreditation - poultry

Free Range Accreditation - Pork

My advice, in case you are interested, is get to know a local farmer and buy meat direct from them (this is also good on so many levels, like helping to sustain your local farmers and support your local food economy, but more on that some other time).  There are plenty of options out there, just do a google search “buy meat direct from farmer “insert your location” and you will be sure to find something.

Here is the Berra we have Lost River Produce  who sell meat from their farm at Crookwell, their animals are happily free roaming on grass and are not fed antibiotics or hormones.  I buy from these guys regularly, their lamb is particularly amazing.   Another fantastic place is Greenhill farm whose meat is all biodynamically grown, and you can order from them online and pick up at the EPIC farmers market every Saturday.  I’ll stop with those 2, but I can feel a list coming on…..

If you can’t get access to a local farmer then only buy certified products, and get acquainted with  what the different accreditations mean.

That’s it from me till next time 🙂


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It’s time to meet your meat

roast-beef-clipart-clip-art-cows-605539

Last week, when my 4-year-old was being consulted about what we should have for dinner, he was asked if he likes fish. His reply – yes, but not fish from the ocean.  Cute and funny, yes, but I figure that this same principle exists for the majority of us adults.  When we buy meat, how much consideration do we give to the kind of life the lovely animal, who is providing the amazing meat, has gone through before ending up on our plates?

Last year, after I watched the doco, “genetic roulette” for the first time (if you still haven’t seen it yet, get into it), I decided that I would only eat grass-fed meat and dairy products, and there is a massive trend towards this happening in society, but then I watched a few more documentaries about the livestock industry, and realised that grass-fed, doesn’t necessarily mean the animal has been treated humanely, and what about the animals we eat that don’t eat grass.  At this point I decided to only ever buy free-range, or preferably organic meat.  The tricky thing here, is that the labelling system used around free-range and organic meat and dairy, is not as straightforward as one would hope (which is pretty much the same for all food labelling standards!).

But today I’m going to hit you with some of the things I have learned.

In Australia, we have something called the National Model Codes of Practice for the Welfare of Livestock, these codes basically define what is considered acceptable treatment of livestock and they definitely provide some good, specific principles for the humane treatment of animals.  Unfortunately however, these codes are not enforceable and are considered to be guidelines, and there are plenty of people who chose not to follow these guidelines and treat animals in a manner that is not considered acceptable.

So today, I want to outline some of the things that may have happened to an animal on its journey from birth to your plate.

Cows – When they are still quite young, many cows are branded, which means they are burned with hot irons, they have their horns cut or burned off, and males get castrated, which means they have their testicles cut out, all without any anaesthetic. If they are really lucky, they will then be sent to feedlots, here is what a typical Australian feedlots look like.

Dairy cows are repeatedly impregnated and separated from their calves so that they produce lots of milk to keep up with the demand we create by using so many dairy products.  Eventually their bodies become exhausted and cannot produce any more milk, when this happens, they will be sent to slaughter.   Cows are mammals like us, and they form strong maternal bonds with their babies, there have been many cases of reports where these poor mums can be heard crying out for their babies, sometimes for days.

Eventually all these cows will end up at the abattoir where they can be in the head, and/or have their throat cut, skinned and gutted, it is not uncommon for the cows to be conscious through this entire process.

Pigs – It is estimated that around 97% of all pigs grown in Australia spend their entire lives indoors.  The treatment of mummy pigs is very sad with these poor pigs spending much of their time gestational crates, like the one below, having babies.

Photos and video footage taken from sow stall sheds in Australia has shown pigs screaming and biting the bars of their stalls, some frothing at the mouth and/or suffering from injuries like swollen limbs, lameness, and open wounds. In the very worst cases, to induce early births, pigs are made to starve, given only one single small meal a day.

Other general practices with pigs:

  • Ear cutting – this is a method used to identify pigs and piglets, and it is usually done without any anesthetic.  It involves cutting off pieces of piglets’ ears in their first few days of life.  A google search can provide you with a “how-to template for pig ear cutting.

  • Tail cutting – the industry says that this a necessary practice to stop piglets and pigs biting each others tails.  However some would argue that the pigs are only biting each other because they are bored, stressed and overcrowded.
  • Teeth cutting – the industry says that piglets require their teeth cut so that they don’t damage their mother’s teats and udder.  Some would argue that under natural conditions a mother pig would be able to move or push her piglets away if they were causing her pain or discomfort, but as you can see above, the gestational crates don’t even have enough room for the mum’s to turn around.

  • castration as with cows,  male piglets can be castrated (a reminder, that means their testicles are removed) without anesthetic.

Chickens – there are two types of chickens bred in Australia, “layers” and “broilers”.  And when I say bred, I really mean they have been bred.  Through selective breeding, today’s layers are bred so that they can lay up to 250 eggs per year.  It is thought that chickens way back in the history of time, like before we started selectively breeding them, may have only laid around 2 dozen eggs per year.  The layer chickens don’t grow fast enough to meet the demand for meat, so if you are a male born layer bred chicken, your life will come to a swift end.

If you buy yourself some caged eggs, this is how the chickens that gave the lovely eggs would spend their whole lives:

Broiler chickens have been bred to produce a lot of meat, and more specifically, a lot of breast meat.  Today’s chickens weigh up to 3 kgs, which is almost double the size of chickens 60 years ago, plus their breasts are 80% larger.  The chickens are also bred to reach this size in 6 weeks, whereas back in the 1950’s it took a chicken 15 weeks to reach its full growth. The accelerated growth leads to many physical problems for the chickens, particularly with reference to moving and walking. A study published by Science Daily showed that 27% of 40 day old chickens had difficulties with movement and 3.3% of them could barely walk.  Even more frightening is that from these groups of chickens, farmers had already culled the “lame” chickens, so these ones were considered normal.  Here is a typical home for broiler chickens, the lights are kept intentionally low so that the chickens will move around less and use less energy and as a result require less food, as well as trying to reduce the amount of fighting between the chickens due to the overcrowded situation.

One of the problems with buying meat from your local supermarket, is that you don’t know the farmer, you don’t see the farm and therefore you have no idea of what that animal has been through.  Labelling is our only way of getting an understanding, but as I mentioned, these labelling systems are confusing.  I am going to come back to the labelling next week.  Your best option would be to find yourself a local farmer and get acquainted with the kinds of conditions the animals you eat are living under.  As the Fair Food documentary highlights, we are the first generation of people that eats food grown and manufactured from places and people we don’t know.  Fair food is another doco you should definitely see, and it provides plenty of other good reasons why you should buy your meat from a local farmer.

Just in case the information above wasn’t disturbing enough, I am going to leave you with the “Meet Your Meat” doco, which is also very disturbing, but well worth a watch.


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Cauliflower – the grain you can want when you don’t want grains.

Cauliflower

When I was growing up (which was only recently by the way) the nutritional guidelines food pyramid looked like this.

Food pyramid

There was also a song, or maybe it was an ad on TV, that told us to “Eat more breads and cereals….”. (Anyone else remember that one?).  And, given that these were the healthy nutritional guidelines of the day, eating more breads and cereals we did.

But recently I’ve learned that eating more breads and cereals probably isn’t the greatest idea, and so I have decided to reduce the amount of grains in my diet.

That is where our friend the cauliflower comes in.  Given that breads and cereals have been such an integral part of my diet for so long, I miss them.  But, luckily the cauliflower (with a little help from some friends) can replicate a number of the grain type foods that i am so used to eating. And they are good, and not just in a “this is good for a grain replacement” kind of way.   

But before sharing the genius of the cauliflower, I’m going to explain a little about why I have decided to reduce the amount of grains I am eating.

Now, I want to be clear, I am not bashing grains (well whole-grains that is, I am definitely going to bash any refined grain that comes near me, but that is for another time).  In my opinion, given that whole-grains come from nature, contain plenty of nutrients AND they taste so good, I am sure we’re meant to eat them. 

It’s volumes at which we consume them that is problem.

Grains, as you are no doubt aware, are carbohydrates.  Plenty of people rant about how bad carbohydrates are, but I’m pretty sure they aren’t bad, mainly because a)our bodies, and brains in particular rely on them for energy to function, and b)vegetables are carbohydrates.

But the thing with carbohydrates is that, although they are essential to our health, they are only essential in relatively small amounts.

I’m going to get technical for a minute…… When you eat carbohydrates they are converted into glucose, this is how your body uses them for fuel.  Any glucose that isn’t used straight away is converted into something called glycogen, and stored in the liver for later.  But here is where it gets tricky. It’s estimated that the brain uses around 120g of glucose a day, and the liver can only hold around 60 – 90 grams at any one time. 

But in our current weston diet, it would be pretty common for most people to be eating over that amount.  So what happens if you end up with more glucose than this? I’m so glad you asked 🙂

An average sized person can store and extra 300g – 400g in their muscles, but the thing about that is, that unlike the glycogen that is stored in your liver, once it’s stored in the muscles it can no longer be accessed for energy, and so there it stays.  So once your muscles are at their capacity the only other place your body can store it is in your fat cells, it stores it there because that is basically what fat cells do, they store excess energy.  And, just like with the stored amounts in your muscles, once that glucose is stored in our fat cells, our bodies cannot access it for energy. So there it stays, and there it is continually added to.

Now, remember that grains aren’t the only food that contain carbohydrates that we eat. Fruit, vegetables, legumes and sugars all contain carbohydrates. But sugars and grains contain a lot more carbohydrates than fruit and veggies so, those are the areas you need to be a lot more careful.

Below is a table showing the carbohydrates per 100g for a bunch of foods.  (I am currently in the process of changing myself from being a “counting everything I put into my mouth” person to a “eating for my health” person, so the table below is not to encourage us to count the carbohydrates we are eating every day, it’s just to give you an idea of the amounts of carbs contained in different foods.)   I wasn’t able to find a conclusive conversion rate for carbohydrates to glucose but some sources said there is a 1:1 ratio, so for now, I’m running with that.

carbohydrates

This glucose storage situation is just one issue for our bodies when it comes to eating grains.  But I am going to leave it there today and jump to the cauliflower recipes.  But if you would like to read more now, Dr Mercola has a very comprehensive article called Lower Your Grains & Lower Your Insulin Levels! A Novel Way To Treat Hypoglycaemia.

Back the cauliflower.

There are plenty of ideas on the internet, in fact there is quite the following for cauliflower, checkout instagram #holla4thecolla 🙂

So far I have made:

IMG_1423

Cauliflower rice, or Crice as I like to call it – super simple – cut the cauliflower into smallish florets and chuck them in the food processor and process until it looks like rice.  Then stick it in a fry-pan, over a low heat,  with a bit of coconut oil and cook it until it is at the required texture, I like mine soft.  This will keep in the fridge for up to a week and I find that half a cauliflower head serves 3 – 4 people as a side.

IMG_1437

Cauliflower pizza base, (the whole pizza didn’t make it into the picture on account of tasty it was) – I use the detoxinista recipe for this – vegan cauliflower pizza crust.

Cauliflower quiche crust (non of my quiche actually made it into the picture, that is because it was even tastier than the pizza) – I use Fresh April Flours recipe – Cheesy Vegetable Quiche with cauliflower crust. I don’t necessarily follow the recipe for the rest of quiche, I just basically use whatever I have lying around.

Next on my list to try are:

What am I missing?  What are else are you making with cauliflower that I should too be making?


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A bunch of really useful ways to use Manuka Honey

This week I am blessed with cold sores, and when I say cold soreS I do mean the plural.  Half of my bottom lip is covered in them.  Yep, it’s pretty gross, but I actually don’t mind having them all that much as I figure it is far better for the stuff that is coming out of them, to be coming out of me, than it is for it to be staying inside of me.

But today I am not writing today to tell you how gross I am, but to sing the praises of Manuka Honey.

(A side note, for any fellow Canberra’s who might not already know, Manuka honey is pronounced Man-oo-ka, not like the suburb Manuka. I find I have far more credibility when it comes encouraging people to use it now that I am pronouncing it correctly 🙂 ).

Manuka honey is made from the nectar of the Manuka flowers which are native to New Zealand.  All honey contains antibacterial compounds and you can read a detailed article about what makes honey antibacterial at WebMD , but basically Manuka honey contains an extra compound called methylglyoxal (it makes me feel smarter writing about this stuff) which is specific to the Manuka flower nectar, and provides a higher level of antibacterial power.

Not all Manuka honey is created equal as the levels of antibacterial compounds vary, and some honey is more medicinal than others.  Luckily, for those of us who dont know how to tell the difference, an index has been created to identify the level of medicinalness of the honey.  The rating is called UMF which stands for Unique Manuka Factor, and the higher the number the more medicinal it is.  It is thought that the honey needs to have an UMF rating of at least 10 to have be used therapeutically.

Here is a handy table I found on the Dr Josh Axe’s Website.  

So that leads me back to my cold sores.  I find Manuka honey amazing for treating my cold sores.

From my perspective, the main challenge with cold sores (well aside from the uncomfortableness of talking to  people as they either seem to stare right at them, or avoid looking at you completely), is how much they hurt and how long they to stick around.  Mine always hurt a lot and tend to stick around for 7 – 14 days.

I have been using Manuka honey 16+, and it gets rid of the pain the second it touches my skin.  It also significantly reduces the time amount of time they (they colds sores) spend living on your lips. If you manage to get some on at the time where the cold sore is just starting, (and those of you who get them will know exactly what I am talking about here, it’s that itchy burning feeling you get) it can really reduce the length of time it hangs around. I have even had one time where I applied the honey to the burning itchiness and the colds sore didn’t come to life.  But more commonly I find that they tend to be mostly cleared up in about 3 – 4 days which is an impressive improvement on the 7 – 14 days.

You can use Manuka Honey on any kind of skin issue, the only thing limiting you is managing the stickiness of the situation – it is honey, so it is sticky.

Here are some of the ways I use Manuka honey:

  • I use it on my son’s mosquito bites and it always stops them from itching and bothering him (I don’t use it on my own mosquito bites because I don’t get bitten by mosquitoes, lucky me!)
  • I use it when my poor feet get cracks in them  (which is quite often during summer), it stops them hurting and they heal much faster.
  • I use it on my 16 year olds eczema, (when is in a mood to allow honey on his skin, which is a lot less often since he became 16) and it heals a lot faster.
  • Last month I had a splinter which caused an infection on the side of my foot, it was red, swollen and quite hot.  I put Manuka honey on it and covered it with a bandaid, changed the dressing every day for 4 days and by the 5th day the infection had gone.

But you are not limited to using Manuka honey outside your body, there is evidence to suggest there are benefits for inside your body too.

Dr Josh Axe has his top 10 Manuka Honey benefits which include:

  • Digestive issues such as acid reflux
  • Acne & Eczema
  • Staph Infections
  • Burns, wounds and ulcers
  • Tooth Decay & Gingivitis
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)  and Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)
  • Sore Throats and Immunity
  • Allergies and Sinusitis
  • Beauty Treatment & Health Booster
  • Improves sleep

I’m sure there are more than a bunch of ways you can use Manuka honey and I just don’t know about them yet.  What do you use Manuka honey for?


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Castile Soap and Make it from Scratch – Foaming Face Wash

homemade foaming face wash recipe

I am pretty sure that if you have some bicarb, your homemade citrus cleaner and some soap there is nothing you can’t clean.

But when it comes to soap, and I’ve mentioned this before, I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to  make my own.  I think perhaps the whole process (which involves unstable chemical compounds, gloves and masks) looks way out of my depth in terms of skill level.  Maybe one day I’ll give it a go and surprise myself, but for now I must rely on soap that other people have made 🙂

My experience has taught me that anytime you are buying something that someone else has made, it is best you do a bit of research to find out exactly is in it.  So that is what I did, and I was pretty surprised at what I found out about soap.

If you are anything like me, you may not even be aware that there different types of soap.  And I’m not talking in terms of whether it comes in a bar, or a liquid, or about the different kinds of ingredients that are added,  I’m referring to the actual soap part of the soap.

homemade foaming face wash recipe

From what I can decipher soap is made from fatty acids which can either come from a plant or an animal source, with the most common animal source being rendered animal fat which is called tallow (Animal fat in soap…. who knew??)   Apparently the word for turning the fatty acids into soap is called (and I felt myself become a bit smarter when I read about this) saponification, and the saponified version of tallow is called sodium tallowate.  So now when you see the name sodium tallowate on the ingredients list of your soap you know that it is rendered animal fat, or as I now like to call it, saponified tallow.

The non-animal fatty acids found in soaps are usually from things like olives, coconut, palm and hemp, and soaps made purely from vegetable oils are called castile soap.

So in terms of being natural, both of these soap ingredients come from nature, but there are a couple of issues with the one that comes from animals.

Crunchy Betty has a great article about the subject and, as she rightly points out, the main problem with the animal sourced ingredient is that it is mass-produced.  This means that the cattle used to make it must be mass-produced.  I’m pretty sure you have heard about the types of conditions that mass-produced cattle usually live in.  Mass-produced cattle tends to equal badly treated cattle.   PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) have lots of information about the mistreatment of mass-produced cattle, and often animals die early because they don’t get proper care.  It is often these mistreated animals, that never make it to the abattoir, that are used to make soap tallow.  I say no to mass-produced cows.  So I say no to mass-produced soaps made with tallow.

Another thing I learnt was that another name for the saponified fatty acid in soap is stearic acid. Apparently stearic acid can come from both animals or plants and most labels won’t tell you the source.  Apparently it is much cheaper to make the animal product than it is to make the plant product so I think it would be safe to assume that most, if not all, mass-produced soap containing stearic acid will have been sourced from animals.   On the other hand, authentic castile soap contains no animal products so you can be sure that any stearic acid in castile soap has come from a plant.

There are actually a bunch of things happening in the land of soap making that are not in line with natural or sustainable living.  I won’t go into all of them now, but whilst we are on the subject of mistreatment of animals, and similarly to just about every product in the beauty industry, there are still companies testing on animals.  Animal testing is mean and nasty and it needs to stop.  PETA has a  list of companies who do not test on animals.  And they also have a list of cruelty-free soaps.

But back to the castile soap.  Aside from not harming any animals whilst being made, authentic Castile soap doesn’t contain harsh chemicals, artificial colorants, fragrances, or preservatives.  But as mentioned earlier, always check the ingredients on anything you buy that someone else has made 🙂

I have been making lots of things using Castile soap, I use it in the shaving cream recipe I shared last week, I use it in my laundry detergent recipe I shared a while back, have been using, and today I am going to share the foaming face wash recipe I have been making.

Here is something else you may not know about soap.  Soap doesn’t actually create any foam.  The super sudsy, foaming soap we buy from the shops has had a chemical foaming agent added to it to make it foam. Castile soap does not contain chemical foaming agents so it doesn’t foam.

But this does not mean that when you start using castile soap you have to miss out on the fun of foaming soap, as there are these genius things called foaming dispensers which provide you with foam without any chemicals. I don’t even know how they work, and on this one I don’t need to know.  I just know that they take your un-foamy liquid Castile soap and turn it into foamy, sudsy, soapy goodness.  And it is with one of these foam making dispensers that I have been making my foaming facial cleanser.

I am a big fan of this face wash and so I included some in my Christmas hampers. Here they are (front and back to show off my homemade waterproof labels 🙂

IMG_0966 IMG_0965

You know I am going to tell you this is super easy it is to make,  and as usual with my “no more than 3 ingredients” policy, it only uses 3 ingredients. (Well actually it uses 4, but the 4th is water and given you can grab some from your tap it doesn’t really count 🙂 ).

Foaming Face Wash recipe

(Recipe adapted from homemademommy.net)

Ingredients:

1/2 tsp extra virgin olive oil

1/3 cup castile soap

20 drops of essential oil (I used 10 drops of grapefruit and 10 drops of neroli)

2/3 cup of filtered water

1 foaming soap dispenser

What to do:

Pour the olive oil into the foaming dispenser then add the essential oils and swirl around to combine.   Then fill the container with the filtered water and combine.  That’s it.

Just a couple of things I have found with this face wash – this quantity lasts a long time, as you only need to pump the foaming device once to get enough to clean your whole face and neck.  I find that over the time the face wash starts to separate a bit, so give it a shake just before you use it to mix the ingredients back together.   I also found that the essential oil scent wore off about half way through the bottle so I added some more.  And lastly, castile soap (as the name suggests) is soap, and if you get it into your eyes it will sting like crazy. So don’t get it into your eyes 🙂


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No Waste Christmas

No waste christmas

This year I decided I would try to make my Christmas more sustainable and natural than I have in the past (makes sense seeing as I am trying to live a more natural and sustainable life).  And since making this decision, I have found that there are plenty of other people trying to do the same.  In particular there is a group called 1 million women who have started the “No waste festive season pledge“, and I have taken it!  They say “you don’t have to do it all, just what you can”  1 million women is not just for women, but named so because of the original concept.  The cause began “determined to do something about climate change” and, given that statistically women make about 85% of the consumer choices in a household, they figured they would start with targeting women (hopefully at least 1 million) to think about the types of purchases they are making.  The idea is that 1 million single women making small changes to live more sustainably, will collectively have a significant impact on the world.  They always have lots of great information about sustainable living, and leading up to the festive season they have been sending out ideas to assist in making the festive season less wasteful.  (Now that I am thinking about it, I really should have written about this earlier, but you can still take the pledge.  Especially all you last minute planners/shoppers).

No waste christmas

As part of my attempt for at less waste Christmas, I have set about making the majority of gifts that I am giving to people.  In fact some of the gifts have been a work in progress for months. I have had stacks of fun with it.  Sadly for you, I cant share any more about my presents today,  as there may be a recipient or two of these presents reading this, and I dont want to give any more away secret 🙂  But you will get to hear all about them in the following Christmas 🙂

So instead today, I’m going to rattle of a few facts I have learned about the current un-sustainability of Christmas.

Unwanted gifts

An article from the Sydney morning herald reports that the Australian institute conducted a study on Christmas waste with the results showing that:

  • During the previous Christmas, 6 million Australians received 1 or more presents that they never used or that they gave away.
  • 1 in every 4  people surveyed said that they expected that some of the present they give will end up unused in a cupboard somewhere.
  • Around 1 in 4 people buy gifts for people they would prefer not to buy for.
  • Unwanted gifts represent $798 million in waste of time, money and resources.  I find it much more impressive to represent the number with all it’s zeros, that’s $798,000,000 wasted. Gone.
  • On the flip-side, 4 out of 5 people said they would be happy for a donation to a charity to be made on their behalf instead of a gift. One charity I looked up can build a water well to provide clean drinking water to an entire town for $7,000.  $798m would buy 114,000 wells.

No waste christmasChristmas wrapping and packaging

The UK telegraph published an article which estimates:

  • 365,000 kms of christmas wrapping is thrown away each year.  Let me give that some context, the distance from one side of planet earth to the other is 40,000 kms.  That means, that with this volume of paper, you could wrap the earth up and give IT to someone as a christmas present.  Nine times over. 

  • 125,000 tons of plastic wrapping is thrown away each year.  That is about the same weight as 12,500 ten tonne trucks.

  • 2.6 billion, ( 2,600,000,000) christmas greeting cards are sold.  This volume is enough to fill a football field 10 storeys high. 

  • The annual waste from gift-wrap and shopping bags equals about 545,000 tonnes.   Which is 10 times the weight of the titanic.

Food

ABC online published an article that estimates:

  • Australians spend around $10 billion on food over the festive season.  Did you get that?  $10,000,000,000!
  • Of the food that is bought, 35% will go to waste.  That’s $3.5 billion, or as I like to show it $3,500,000,000.  The world food programme estimates that there are currently 66 million children who suffer from hunger in the world, they could be fed for $3.2 billion.  So we could totally feed them all.

So let’s just stop wasting so much stuff.   Sign up for the pledge 🙂

I’m off to do some more work on my less wasteful Christmas presents 🙂


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Make it From Scratch – Greek Yoghurt

yogurt-157051_640

Recently I walked into the kitchen to find my 16-year-old, straining the milk through a colander to pour onto his breakfast. Seems he isn’t as keen on the unhomogenized milk as I am. He told me the “bits” are disgusting.  Those bits that he is referring to are creamy butterfat goodness.  Having spent most of my life depriving myself of butterfat goodness, I just don’t get how anyone could not want to be a part of it.  But then again, there are plenty of things I don’t get about 16 year olds.

I have been spending a fair amount of time straining in the kitchen too, but mine is because I have been making stacks of yoghurt.  I got my hands on a copy of Sally Falon’s book, Nourishing Traditions, which is full of all kinds of interesting information, but she explains how fermenting milk (and in case you didn’t realise, that is what you do when you make yoghurt), restores many of the enzymes which are destroyed during pasteurisation.   And this is just the beginning of the good news about yoghurt.

I think there is something to be said about foods which have been around for a long time, and yoghurt certainly has.  Yoghurt is apparently one of the oldest produced foods in human history.  Historians are unsure of how of just exactly how old it is, but estimate it was first used somewhere between 9000 and 6000 BC.  (For those of you who, like me,  gain no understanding from the use of BC timing, 9000 BC is 11,015 years ago.  I googled it and found out that you just add the BC number to the current year, I am officially a little bit smarter 🙂 ).

Yoghurt is very good for you,  everyone agrees on that, and apparently even from the very beginnings people have known of its health benefits. One of the main reasons yoghurt is so good for you, is that during the fermentation process,  there are lots of little good, helpful and friendly bacteria created, and when you put those little good guys into your tummy (by eating them), not only do they help you to digest other food, but they get rid of the bad, unhelpful and not-so-friendly bacteria in your tummy.  As I mentioned in my very first post, more and more research is showing the relationship between our physical health and our gut bacteria, so get stuck into the yoghurt.  I eat it every day.

Unfortunately, as with most things, the yoghurt you buy from the shop may not necessarily be that good for you.  I have found that the majority of yoghurt at the supermarket contain artificial preservatives, thickeners, and sugar, and most of them are made from low-fat milk.  Given that I use 2 ingredients to make yoghurt, I find the ingredients on this (fairly standard) label to be a little over the top.

greek yoghurt

So you should totally make your own.  It’s super easy, but to make it the super simple way I do, you will need a yoghurt maker.   I picked up mine from a school fete for $2, and there must be lots of people changing their minds about making their own yoghurt as I can honestly say that there has never been a time that I have NOT seen one at a school fete.  (That is probably because they don’t realise they can make yoghurt with 2 ingredients and use the shop bought yoghurt mix stuff, which basically helps you to make shop-bought yoghurt and it isn’t very nice).  I also usually see at least one at the green shed,  and in other second-hand shops, so I feel pretty confident that you should be able to easily grab yourself a cheap second-hand one.

Mine looks like this.

greek yoghurt recipe

The difference between natural yoghurt and greek yoghurt is that greek yoghurt is strained to remove the whey (that clear watery looking liquid you see in yoghurt).  I was going to tell you all about what whey is, but I actually couldn’t really find much information on it.  My basic understanding is that it is one of the proteins contained in the milk that separates through the fermenting process.  There are some schools of thought that suggest greek yoghurt is better for you as most of the sugary part of the milk separates along with the whey, so the greek yoghurt has less sugar in it.

I just prefer it because it is thicker and creamier and seemingly more delicious. I  have found that the amount of whey produced varies depending on how fresh the milk and/or yoghurt I am using is, whether I take the milk off before it boils, or if it actually gets to the boil.  (One time there was so much whey, and the separated yoghurt was so thick I think I accidentally made ricotta cheese. I haven’t been able to recreate it. )  But there is no need to throw out the whey you produce as there are plenty of things you can do with it, the Prairie homestead gives us 16 ideas.   Unfortunately yoghurt manufacturing companies aren’t doing any of the 16 things, as they are just throwing it out.  This is actually something of concern since lots of people have started purchasing greek yoghurt.  The Diary reporter published an article earlier this year describing the issues with the volume of whey that is being produced, they describe that the main concern is around whey getting get into waterways which would result in “massive fish kills and creating a dead sea by depleting oxygen”.  Who knew?  So like I said, you should totally make your own and then you can use up your whey and save the fishies 🙂

So this is how I make my yoghurt.

Ingredients:

800 mls full-fat, un-homogenized milk

200 mls of organic greek yoghurt (for your first time you will need to grab some from the shop, but after you have made your first batch you can set aside some from your own to use)

What to do:

Heat the milk in a saucepan, stirring regularly until it just starts to boil.  Pour milk into the yoghurt making container and set aside to cool until it is luke-warmish, maybe a bit warmer.  The milk will have grown one of those milky skins on top, avoid breaking the skin and gently pour the yoghurt into the container. Give it a bit of a swirl and put the lid on.

Fill the yoghurt making incubator (as I like to call it, it’s the outside bit of the yoghurt maker), with boiling water (as per the instructions of the particular yoghurt making system) and put the yoghurt making container inside.  Close the incubator lid and set aside for a minimum of 5 hours.  I find leaving it overnight works the best.  After the desired amount of time, open the incubator lid and there you will find your home-made yoghurt.  Arent you clever?

To turn your home-made yoghurt into home-made greek yoghurt, you will need to strain it. People are always talking about cheesecloth, but I don’t have one, (in fact I don’t think I have ever even seen one), I just use a tea towel that I keep solely for that purpose.  I wet the tea towel and pour the yoghurt in, then gather up the top and squeeze gently over a bowl.  The whey will start to pour out and will take a bit of time.  I don’t usually have patience to go past 5 minutes and the result is thick enough for me.  If you don’t want to stand there doing that you can put it into the fridge and leave it to drain itself for a few hours.  And there you have it.

You can then get to making other home-made delicious things from you homemade greek yoghurt.  I’m sure there’s at least a million things, you don’t just have to eat it you know  🙂

I am currently using my homemade greek yoghurt to make homemade delicious smoothies every day for breakfast and here is my favourite:

Chocolate banana coconut smoothie

Ingredients:

1 cup of homemade greek yoghurt

1 banana

2 teaspoons cacao

1 teaspoon coconut oil.

What to do:

I just chuck it all together and mix with a hand blender.  This little concoction keeps me full till lunchtime 🙂

Please feel free to share your homemade yoghurt home-made recipes in the comments below 🙂